Anti-Amazon groups continue community outreach
by Benjamin Fang
Feb 13, 2019 | 2361 views | 0 0 comments | 201 201 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Community organizations against Amazon’s Long Island City campus are not placated by recent reports that the company is reconsidering HQ2.

In fact, they’re doubling down and working even harder to prevent the tech giant from coming to Queens.

On Saturday, nearly a dozen groups hosted community outreach events in Long Island City, Jackson Heights, Corona and Flushing. They shared flyers and spoke to residents, explaining why they believe Amazon is bad for Queens and New York City.

Among their top concerns are displacement of longtime residents, shuttering of small businesses, the company’s development of technology for ICE, and a poor record of labor rights.

Josselyn Atahualpa, an organizer with the group Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU), joined dozens of volunteers to talk to residents and businesses near Corona Plaza. She characterized the recent news as a win for New York.

“This could be a PR stunt by Amazon, but we’re going to use this strategically,” she said. “This is a big moment for people trying to defeat Amazon.”

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Amazon is reconsidering its plan because of fierce opposition from elected officials and advocates. They story noted that executives have discussed exploring alternatives.

The news galvanized anti-Amazon groups and politicians who have fought against the deal.

“New Yorkers won’t be fooled,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change. “We are well aware of the damage Amazon has done in other communities and do not want that repeated in New York.”

“It’s not over,” added Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, “but I’m proud of the values we fought for.”

HQ2 opponents also celebrated last week when the State Senate appointed State Senator Michael Gianaris to the Public Authorities Control Board, which approves the project’s financing.

Gianaris, who represents Long Island City and has been a vocal critic of the deal, could have a say in vetoing the project.

Local organizations including Make the Road New York, Alliance for a Greater New York and Chhaya CDC released a statement calling on the state senator to oppose HQ2.

“This is a step forward to ensuring that the voices of community members and workers opposing the corrupt Amazon deal are heard,” the statement read.

Atahualpa also called Gianaris’s appointment a “huge win,” but said QNU will keep pushing him, including on social media, to represent the community.

“We see him out there and we’re going to hold him to his word,” she said.

Later that Friday, at an unrelated event, Governor Andrew Cuomo accused State Senate Democrats of “governmental malpractice.” He said if Amazon pulls out of the project, or Gianaris blocks the deal through the PACB, they will have to explain their decision to New Yorkers.

“It is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy,” he said. “You’re not there to play politics, you’re there to do what’s right for the people of the state of New York. What they did here was wrong.”

“I understand politics very well,” Cuomo added. “But I’ve never seen a more absurd situation where political pandering so defeats a bonafide economic development project.”

The governor noted that a deal of this magnitude doesn’t happen anymore. Losing Amazon would be a “tremendous loss,” he said.

“I spend days trying to bring a business that has 100 or 200 jobs,” he said. “You don’t get 25,000 jobs.”

Silvia Juliana Mantilla Ortiz from Centro Corona, a community center that engages the community in political education workshops, said on Saturday that the recent events demonstrate that the tide is turning against Amazon.

“The work that we’re doing as a community is having a huge effect,” she said. “It’s putting a fire in all of us to know that we are making a difference.”

“As always, it’s been people pushing back that shifts the narrative on what happens,” Ortiz added. “Our people are going to keep on fighting.”

Atahualpa said although Amazon has the money to hire lobbying and consulting firms to push the plan through, organizers have the relationships and community connections to defeat them.

“This is just fueling us,” she said. “If they’re trying to play games, it sucks for them because they’re pushing us to fight even harder. We’re not going to give up.”
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